Managing MS: Tips for a Healthier Life

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Managing MS: Tips for a Healthier Life

1. Diet and Nutrition


While the treatments prescribed by a physician are determined to manage a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), there are other factors that contribute for overall wellbeing. Diet and nutrition are among them. There is no special diet designed for patients with MS, but what is eaten can impact energy levels as well as bladder and bowel function. So, having a healthy, balanced, and planned diet is important. Specialists recommend a low-fat and high-fiber diet. There is also evidence that a diet low in saturated fats and supplemented by omega-3 and omega-6 can benefit MS patients. Some people may also be advised to take supplements like vitamin D or the form of vitamin B known as Biotin/MD1003.

2. Exercise


It may be difficult for MS patients to exercise, but it is helpful for the management of the disease. Aerobic exercise has been proven helpful to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, bladder and bowel function, fatigue and depression, positive attitude, and participation in social activities. It is important for people with MS to consult with their physician as to what is the most indicated type of exercise that can fit individual capacities and limitations. Each period of exercise should be timed to prevent excessive fatigue. There are many things that can be done by MS patients, like gardening, household chores and cooking, but also yoga, adaptive tai chi, and exercises in water.

3. Smoking


“The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has established that smoking causes serious health problems; subsequent studies by many other groups have confirmed this,” according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Smokers are generally recognized to have higher rates of lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other respiratory problems, and lower birth weight infants than nonsmokers. Smoking is known to produce shortness of breath, susceptibility to lung infections, and heartbeat irregularities, which might transform a mild or moderate neurological limitation in a person with MS into a severe disability. Furthermore, smoking presents a significant fire hazard when the smoker suffers from weakness or incoordination.”

4. Alcohol


Like smoking, alcohol is also discouraged for patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis. When consumed in high amounts, alcohol causes numerous effects on the central nervous system and other body organs. In patients with MS, this effect is exaggerated. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and it may be additive due to drugs prescribed for the treatment of MS. This does mean that MS patients cannot drink alcohol at all, but they should consult with their physician the appropriate amount and frequency to drink.

5. Heat and Temperature


Temperature can influence how an MS patient feels. The symptoms of the disease may get worse when the weather is very hot or humid. “Activities including sunbathing, getting overheated from exercise, or taking very hot showers or baths can have the same effect. For example, some people notice that their vision becomes blurred when they get overheated — a phenomenon known as Uhthoff’s sign. These temporary changes can result from even a very slight elevation in core body temperature,” says the National MS Society.

“Some people with MS notice that symptoms, particularly spasticity, become worse in cold weather. It is generally recommended that people with MS who are sensitive to temperature try to avoid extremes of either hot or cold. Anyone considering a move to a ‘better’ climate should visit first to see if the climate change is, indeed, beneficial,” the foundation cautions.

6. Traveling


Multiple sclerosis does not go away, either in the workplace or during the holidays. Therefore, patients need to make some arrangements when traveling to avoid potential complications. Patients can find traveling tips from organizations or their physician. These include packing all medications needed and that might be required in the case of exacerbation; seeking a specialized physician at the location; or checking the weather for the time of the travel. It might seem scary, but MS should not keep people from traveling. Research and planning are the key, according to the MS society.

7. Emotional Wellness


Sometimes, even when the body is feeling well, there seems to be a problem. Emotional well-being is as important as taking care of the body. “MS can have a significant impact on a person’s emotions, not only because MS is unpredictable and challenging to live with, but because it affects parts of the brain that control mood,” says the National MS Society. It is essential to recognize and address changes because state of mind, emotion, and mood impact how one feels physically and functions in everyday life. They are essential components of overall wellness, affect one’s ability to care for oneself, adapt to change and problem-solve effectively, can negatively impact cognitive function (particularly depression), [and] are difficult for others to understand and live with, potentially causing disruptions in communication and relationships.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor If You’re Newly Diagnosed

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We consulted some of our community contributors at MS News Today and came up with 12 questions people should consider asking their doctors after an MS diagnosis.

Check it out by clicking here.

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